No one gets out of this week unscathed at The Improv
So, a Mexican, a Native American and a Jew walk into a comedy club …
Willie Barcena, a contemporary great at societal observations, headlines this week at Harveys with his longtime associate Larry Omaha and Improv host Howie Nave.
Born in Mexico and raised in East Los Angeles (as he puts it, “snuck in fair and square”), Willie used to be the morning on KSFM 102.5 FM in Sacramento but soon realized that getting up early every morning was not for him.
Over the years, he has amassed impressive credits, including numerous appearances on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” and a one-man play that he starred in, wrote and directed, called “Cry Like A Man” about the struggle of a blue-collar comic in today’s society and creating sitcom pilots that will net him a long-running gig enabling him to stay in one place. Willie, of course, also has performed overseas too entertaining our troops.
Leno asked Willie to perform with him to tape a segment on “The Tonight Show” as a tribute to our men and women in uniform. Willie jumped at the chance because he knows that making people laugh can go a long way to make them feel at home. Willie’s philosophy about life is a simple one: “Know who you are and have people laugh with you.”
Willie wasn’t an overnight sensation ” not by any means. He’s worked as a security guard, plumber, roofer and limo driver before he found his calling in comedy. However, many of his best friends are those who still work in those professions giving his style an “everyman” approach.
He has also appeared on such television shows as “Moesha,” “The Wayans Brothers” and last year was the host of the popular Si TV production “Latino Laugh Festival ” The Show.” He’s also made multiple appearances on tours such as Que Locos, Latino Laugh Festival, Montreal’s Just for Laughs and the Crown Royal Latin All Stars Comedy Explosion.
Everyone’s favorite Native American, Omaha returns to the lake in part to do a week of comedy but also to see if he can reclaim his people’s land that my people took from him. My people? You mean Jews?
“Cultural diversity isn’t new to America,” Larry says. “Before the Pilgrims landed, there were mountain Indians, agricultural tribes and Plains Indians. There were even Native American visionaries training to become future casino operators.”
It’s no wonder, then, that Omaha is probably one of the most sought-after comedians on the Indian Gaming circuit today. He toured with the Pow Wow Comedy Jam in an attempt to prove that Native Americans are funny, too, and also toured with the “Freaks Are Everywhere” Tour. Larry has made numerous appearances on Que Locos and traveled with the Que Locos National Comedy Tour. His appearance on the PBS show “How the West Was Lost” gave viewers a chance to hear his voice-over talents, portraying a cowardly soldier and Geronimo.
Larry’s a regular on Comedy Central’s, “The Mind of Mencia” and “Comics Unleashed.” He also appeared on NBC’s “ER” in an episode called “Untold Stories of the ER.”
As an actor Larry is one of those unique talents who can send a film straight to obscurity and bankrupt a studio. However, he was impressive in “Veteran’s Day” where he played a sadistic interrogator of POWs. In “Crack Me Up” Omaha found joy in smashing a cue stick over his girlfriend’s head. His latest is a horror movie called “The Blackout,” which will be out sometime this summer.
We often tease each other about everything stereotypical involving our races because, as comics, we can.
I asked him if he had kept to any New Year’s resolutions since we’re almost halfway through ’08, and he said, “Yes and no: I’m still clinging to the belief that for every square mile of land the white man returns to my people I promise to be 1 percent funnier than I was last year, Howie. It’s a win-win proposition for America.”
Pass the pumpkin pie, would you, please, Larry?